Respiratory findings in female mineral fertilizer plant workers

Eugenija Zuskin, Jadranka Mustajbegovic, E. Neil Schachter, Josipa Kern, Vlasta Deckovic-Vukres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Purpose: Workers employed in the industiy processing fertilizers are exposed to a mixture of different noxious agents which may potentially cause the development of respiratory difficulties. Material and Methods: The study included a group of 131 female workers employed in a chemical plant manufacturing mineral fertilizers and 92 non-exposed female workers as controls. Acute and chronic respiratory symptoms were recorded in all fertilizer and control workers. Lung function was measured in fertilizer workers by recording maximum expiratory flow-volume (MEFV) curves on which forced vital capacity (FVC), one second forced expiratoiy volume (FEV1), maximum expiratoiy flows at 50%, and the last 25%: were read (FEF50, FEF25). Results: There was a higher prevalence of almost all chronic respiratoiy symptoms in fertilizer - compared to control workers (p <().()! or p <0.05). The prevalence varied from 0.8% for occupational asthma to 44.3% for throat irritation. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of these symptoms between smokers and nonsmokers. In addition, a large number of fertilizer workers complained of acute symptoms that develop during work shift, with the highest number related to eye irritation, dyspnea, chest tightness and headache. The odds ratio demonstrated significant correlation of chronic cough, chronic phlegm, chronic bronchitis, dry nose and eye irritation with exposure. The measured lung function tests demonstrated significantly decreased FEF50 and FEF25 in relation to predicted values indicating obstructive changes located predominantly in smaller airways. Regression analysis showed significant correlation of FVC, FEV1, FEF50 and FEF25 with employment duration (p<0.001). Conclusions: Our data suggest that workers occupationally exposed to fertilizer dust may develop acute and chronic respiratoiy symptoms as well as ventilatory function impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-159
Number of pages7
JournalPeriodicum Biologorum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Fertilizer workers
  • Lung function
  • Respiratory symptoms


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